Union Home Minister Shivraj Patil made a whirlwind visit to Barkhama, one of the riot-affected villages of Kandhamal district, to take an on-the-spot assessment of the situation.
It created a lot of resentment in the state as Brahmnigaon, the worst-affected village where a Hindu colony was torched, was not included in his itinerary. People alleged that Patil visited a particular area where the Christian community was affected. On being asked why Patil visited Barkhama village instead of Brahmanigaon, Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik said with a smile, ?The choice of the visit was of the Union Home Minister.?
Chief Minister Patnaik, Leader of the Opposition J.B. Patnaik, Union Minister Chandrasekhar Sahu and Pradesh Congress Committee (PCC) president Jaydev Jena accompanied Patil to Kandhamal.
After the visit, Patil told reporters at Biju Patnaik Airport that action would be taken against those behind the act. ?The culprits would be booked and punished,? he said.
During his visit, Patil directly communicated with the riot victims. ?We could see things with our own eyes on what had happened,? he said adding that he was sorry for this tragic incident.
However, he parried a question whether religious conversion was one of the reasons for the violence. ?I have not come here to give any comment or judgment,? he said.
Before leaving for Barkhama in Kandhamal, Patil held a one-to-one meeting with the Chief Minister on the Kandhamal issue for 15 minutes. Later, he took a review meeting with the officials at the Governor'sHouse.
Later briefing reporters at Naveen Niwas, Patnaik said more than 80 people had already been arrested and culprits would be brought to book soon. ?I again assure the people that all steps will be taken for the safety of the people. I also told them about the government'sannouncement on the compensation package,? he said. The government has already announced a compensation of Rs 1 lakh for the kin of those of the deceased. Those who have lost their houses would be given houses under Indira Awas Yojana, he added.